Celtics

NBA rumors: Kyrie Irving, Nets agree to four-year max contract

NBA rumors: Kyrie Irving, Nets agree to four-year max contract

The Kyrie Irving era in Boston has come to a close.

The Celtics point guard will agree to a four-year, $141 million max contract with the Brooklyn Nets early in the NBA free agency period Sunday night. Players (with few exceptions) are not able to officially sign their new deals until July 6. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Irving will be joined by free agents Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan.

Irving arrived in Boston after a surprising trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers in August of 2017. He played well for the C's in 2017-18 but was unable to take part in the team's playoff run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals after undergoing season-ending knee surgery in April of 2018.

The Celtics went into 2018-19 with expectations of competing for an NBA championship with Irving and Gordon Hayward each returning from season-ending injuries. Irving told fans at a season ticket holder event in October that he planned to re-sign the team, which was a sigh of relief for many Celtics supporters.

Unfortunately for the C's, everything that could have gone wrong following that October event actually did go wrong. The team struggled out of the gate, earning a 10-10 record through 20 games. Irving played a part in the team chemistry issues that seemed to plague the club throughout the campaign, and his performance as a team leader also was poor. When pressed about his commitment to the franchise, Irving told reporters Feb. 1 to "ask me July 1."

The Celtics, despite an excellent statistical season from Irving, limped through the regular season as the No. 4 seed in the East entering the playoffs, where they ultimately were eliminated in a five-game second-round series by the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Irving era in Boston had so much potential when it started, but by the end, it was clear that both sides needed to move on.

Luckily for the Celtics, it looks like they've found an excellent replacement for Irving in Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker. Walker reportedly will agree to a four-year, $141 million contract with the C's on Sunday night.

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Jaylen Brown (thumb) out again for Celtics Saturday vs. Suns, Kemba Walker (knee) questionable

Jaylen Brown (thumb) out again for Celtics Saturday vs. Suns, Kemba Walker (knee) questionable

The Celtics will again be without Jaylen Brown on Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden as he recovers from a right thumb sprain and Kemba Walker is questionable with a sore left knee.

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The C's were without Brown in their 128-123 loss in Milwaukee on Thursday night. The swingman was injured in a home loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. Walker picked up the scoring slack against the Bucks with a 40-point performance. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters at the team's shootaround Saturday morning that a scan of Brown's thumb showed no tear but he'll be out again as Boston tries to turnaround a recent slide that has seen them lose two in a row and five of their past seven.

"He’s getting a lot better. They went into last night thinking there was a chance he would play but he’s not going to play," Stevens said. "The scans didn’t show anything from a tear standpoint. It’s a sprain. Still got a little swelling."

Brown (20.0) is one of three Celtics averaging 20 points or more per game along with Walker (22.1) and Jayson Tatum (21.2). Marcus Smart moved into the starting lineup on Thursday in place of Brown so look for that to happen again Saturday. 

In other injury news, forward Gordon Hayward said the foot injury he's been playing through is lingering but he wouldn't blame it for his inconsistent play lately (1-for-10 shooting vs. Bucks).

“I think it’s going to be an ongoing issue for a little while, so it is what it is...," Hayward said. "The night before I had a good game (10-for-15 shooting, 25 points vs. the Pistons), so some days are diamond, some days are stone.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Difference between Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker apparent in recent press conferences

Celtics Talk Podcast: Difference between Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker apparent in recent press conferences

The 2019 NBA offseason has ensured that Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker will always be connected. When Irving spurned the Celtics after two seasons with the team to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, Walker joined the C's and took over as their starting point guard.

The two players are similarly great scorers. They can pass the ball well and set up teammates, too. And while Irving is regarded by many as the better player in terms of skill set, there are some intangible things that Walker brings to the floor and Irving doesn't: leadership and chemistry.

And Irving and Walker's recent postgame comments after losses demonstrate that.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

On the latest episode of The Celtics Talk Podcast, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely were discussing the recent postgame interviews that the two did after rough outings and bad losses for their respective squads.

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Irving was far more focused on improving the team around him as opposed to his own poor performance. And as Blakely pointed out, it speaks to one of Irving's weaknesses as a leader.

Kyrie has yet to figure out how to make those around him better so that he can be a better winner. He is a great player. He's one of the best players in the NBA. There's absolutely no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

But he has yet to figure out how to elevate the players around him or carry himself with a level of humility that will ingratiate himself to his teammates who may not be as good as he is, but want to be great players nonetheless.

And Blakely also had one epic mic-drop moment about the former Celtic on NBC Sports Boston's "Boston Sports Tonight."

This completely juxtaposes Blakely's thoughts on Walker, who focused more on his poor performance and how he needs to play better for the sake of the team.

Kemba, flip-side of that, he didn't play great against Detroit. Was he the worst player? In the conversation, but he didn't play bad enough to where he was clear and undeniably the worst player on the floor.

And yet all he talked about in postgame was how he's got to be better. He's got to do a better job leading. It was me, me, me for the team, team, team. And that's something that you never hear from Kyrie.

Both Blakely and Draper acknowledged that they don't always like comparing the two to each other. But in this circumstance where their postgame pressers from similar games were polar opposites, they thought it had to be done.

It just about sums up why many Boston fans were happy to see Irving walk in the offseason. And Walker's positive attitude and ability to generate team chemistry has certainly been a breath of fresh air for the Celtics faithful.

For more on the Celtics game against the Bucks, their recent skid, expectations moving forward, and potential All-Stars from the team, check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, which drops weekly as part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.